JIM SHARPE

Half the tragedies one Arizona law enforcement family has faced would’ve broken me in half

Jun 3, 2024, 12:32 PM

When Erene Briese told ABC15 Arizona, “Tell your loved ones that you love them and hold them tight because ‘you never know’” — she knows what she’s talking about. Because when your loved ones work in law enforcement, really, “you never know” if they’re coming home. 

Erene is the mother of fallen Gila River Police Officer Joshua Briese, who was killed in the line of duty at the age of 23. Briese was shot after responding to a disturbance at a huge party in the Santan area of the Gila River Indian Community located south of Chandler.

Briese was fatally shot before he would complete a year with Gila River PD — or even finish his field training.

“I never wanted him to be in this line of duty,” Erene explained to ABC15, “because I just can’t go through this again.” She says “again” because Josh’s father also lost his life while performing the duties of a law enforcement officer. 

Yes, as unbelievable — and as cruel — as it may seem, lightning has hit this family twice. 

Josh’s dad, Yellowstone County Montana Deputy Sheriff David Briese, also died in the line of duty. In 2006, when Joshua was only six years old, the elder Briese was killed in a crash while responding to help a fellow deputy who was dealing with a combative drunk driver.

In a statement, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office said that many in the office were heartbroken and in disbelief upon receiving word of the death of “‘Joshie’ as many of us called him.” 

“All we can say is God Speed and rest easy. Knowing Dave and Josh are together again, both left this world serving their community and doing what they loved. RIP.”

By the way, Joshua Briese’s short time as a Gila River officer wasn’t his first job serving Arizona in law enforcement. Before joining Gila River PD, he was an officer with the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry. 

Josh Briese’s dad’s best friend was fellow Yellowstone Deputy David Muhlbeier. He understands why Josh got into the same line of work as his dad (because his dad, David, was Josh’s heavenly hero, right?). But Muhlbeier told ABC15 there’s one question he doesn’t know how to answer: “Why is this occurring? Why have we lost so many officers in this year alone?”

At the time of his death, Joshua Breise was the 26th U.S. law enforcement officer in 2024 to die in the line of duty as a result of being shot, stabbed or otherwise assaulted by a suspect. (Overall, 64 died in the line of duty due to all causes).

What’s so broken in our society that we have so many people willing to pull out a gun and open fire on police? I don’t know how we fix it — but since I do know that someone who’s willing to shoot at officers won’t think twice about doing the same to anybody without a badge — we damn well better come up with some answers.

While we’re at it, maybe we can figure out how to fix the pain of the families of the officers killed protecting us. 

Something I don’t think we’ll ever be able to do for Erene Briese — because even if a family can survive one line-of-duty death, two would seem to create a mountain of grief that’s twice as high as Everest — with almost no hope of ever getting over it. 

So tonight, I will thank God that I’ve never been put in that position — and I’ll thank Him for Joshua, David and Erene Briese.

We want to hear from you.

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Jim Sharpe

(KTAR News Photo)...

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Half the tragedies one Arizona law enforcement family has faced would’ve broken me in half